Year in review: Washington University wins some, loses one

Two Ervin scholars win Rhodes Scholarships; soccer star scores NCAA honor; Wrighton announces he’s stepping down

It has been another year of achievement at Washington University in St. Louis. Seniors Camille Borders and Jasmine Brown both were named Rhodes Scholars, graduate Lizzy Crist was named 2017 NCAA Woman of the Year and researchers discovered the tomb of a Maya ruler, explored the link between sleep and Alzheimer’s and found that babies are master social statisticians in disguise.

And it has been a year of change. After 22 years of leading the university, Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton announced that he will end his tenure, the second-longest in university history.

“Together, we have accomplished something extraordinary in the past 22 years, building upon the remarkable foundation established by Chancellor Emeritus William H. Danforth,” Wrighton said.

Here, The Record shares 2017’s most-read stories in The Source:

Infants know what we like best, study finds

Behind the chubby cheeks and bright eyes of babies as young as 8 months lies the smoothly whirring mind of a social statistician, logging our every move and making odds on what a person is most likely to do next, suggests research in the journal Infancy. The findings demonstrated that infants look for consistent patterns of behavior and make judgments about people’s preferences based on simple probabilities calculated from observed events and actions.

Seniors Camille Borders and Jasmine Brown named Rhodes Scholars

Seniors Camille Borders and Jasmine Brown have been selected as Rhodes Scholars. One of the most world’s most prestigious academic honors, the scholarship provides an opportunity to earn an advanced degree at Oxford University.

Wrighton to conclude term as Washington University chancellor

Wrighton announced his intention to conclude his term as chancellor, effective no later than July 1, 2019. Wrighton, who has served in the role since 1995, shared the news with the university’s Board of Trustees Oct. 6.

Washington People: Laura Cobb

Laura Cobb was struck by a drunken driver during her senior year at Washington University in 2008. She was seriously injured and today has aphasia, which severely limits her ability to speak. But she battled back, returned to school and graduated in May. She now works as a research technician on campus.

Popular heartburn drugs linked to higher death risk

Popular heartburn drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) have been linked to a variety of health problems, including serious kidney damage, bone fractures and dementia. A study from Washington University School of Medicine shows that longtime use of the drugs also is associated with an increased risk of death.

Tomb of early classic Maya ruler found in Guatemala

The tomb of a Maya ruler excavated this summer at the Classic Maya city of Waka’ in northern Guatemala is the oldest royal tomb yet to be discovered at the site, the Ministry of Culture and Sports of Guatemala announced.

WashU Spaces: The Office of Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton

WashU Spaces, a new series that showcases the offices, laboratories, studios and living quarters of the students, staff and faculty of the university, visits the office of Chancellor Wrighton.

Sleep, Alzheimer’s link explained

A good night’s sleep refreshes body and mind, but a poor night’s sleep can do just the opposite. A study from the School of Medicine, along with Radboud University Medical Centre in the Netherlands and Stanford University, has shown that disrupting just one night of sleep in healthy, middle-aged adults causes an increase in amyloid beta, a brain protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease. And a week of tossing and turning leads to an increase in another brain protein, tau, which has been linked to brain damage in Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases.

Protein-rich diet may help soothe inflamed gut

Immune cells patrol the gut to ensure that harmful microbes hidden in the food we eat don’t sneak into the body. Cells that are capable of triggering inflammation are balanced by cells that promote tolerance, protecting the body without damaging sensitive tissues. When the balance tilts too far toward inflammation, inflammatory bowel disease can result. Researchers at the School of Medicine found that a kind of tolerance-promoting immune cell appears in mice that carry a specific bacterium in their guts.

Why did I do that?

The “self” part of self-control can be a new concept for many college students. For years, they had parents and teachers to keep them on track. Then college comes, with its many demands and distractions, and students find themselves baffled by their own dumb mistakes. “We ask ourselves, ‘Why did I do that?’” said Todd Braver, professor of psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences.

Eating more like our ancestors would improve human health

Malnutrition problems can be traced to poor-quality diets lacking in diversity, a recent phenomenon in evolutionary history, according to a paper from the Brown School.

Anxious? Cellular roots of anxiety identified

Research from the School of Medicine sheds light on what might be happening in an anxious brain. A new study has identified a group of neurons that become active when an animal is faced with the possibility — but not the certainty — of an unpleasant event.

Older Neandertal survived with a little help from his friends

An older Neandertal from about 50,000 years ago, who had suffered multiple injuries and other degenerations, became deaf and must have relied on the help of others to avoid prey and survive well into his 40s, indicates an analysis published in the online journal PLoS ONE.

Targeted excavating leads to lost city

Using modern, high-tech analysis tools, anthropologist Michael Frachetti is leading groundbreaking research on an ancient city high in the Uzbekistan mountains. The site may hold clues to how medieval civilizations changed when diverse communities integrated — and even suggest how we might consider our own current initiatives of global community-building.

Alum Lizzy Crist named NCAA Woman of the Year

Lizzy Crist, a May 2017 graduate, was named 2017 NCAA Woman of the Year. Crist was chosen from among nine finalists for the award, three from each NCAA division. She is the second student-athlete from Washington University to win the award, joining 2012 winner Elizabeth Phillips. She is also the fifth NCAA Division III student-athlete to claim the honor.

International research powerhouses join forces to advance study of life on Earth

Internationally renowned biologist Jonathan Losos is coming from Harvard University to Washington University to lead the newly created Living Earth Collaborative. In establishing the collaborative, the university is joining forces with two of the nation’s leading institutions in the study and preservation of plants and animals — the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Saint Louis Zoo — to create a new academic center dedicated to advancing the study of biodiversity to help ensure the future of Earth’s species in their many forms.

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